by UnHerd
Wednesday, 7
July 2021

Have younger voters really gone red?

A new generation of socialists may be upon us
by UnHerd
Photo: Paul Davey / Barcroft Media via Getty

According to a new report from the Institute for Economic Affairs, 67% of young Britons (16-to-34-year-olds) “would like to live in a socialist economic system.”

Being a free market think tank, the IEA presents this as cause for alarm. Certainly, it helps to explain why younger voters now lean so heavily towards Labour and the other Left-wing parties.

But how do we reconcile these facts with a Redfield and Wilton poll, also out this week, which shows that younger people are much more in favour of cutting taxes than those aged 35 plus? Remarkably, support for lower taxation is twice as high among 18-to-24-year-olds than it is among Conservative voters.

Credit: Redfield and Wilton Strategies

Moreover, when asked to choose between tax increases and spending cuts to balance the country’s finances, most younger voters opt for the latter.

Credit: Redfield and Wilton Strategies

This is not what one would expect from a bunch of socialists.

So do these findings contradict the IEA report? No — because the IEA polling also finds some perplexing views on taxation. While there was support among younger people for paying more tax in order to better fund public services and benefits, an even higher proportion of the same age group agreed with the statement: “I would prefer to pay less tax, because I don’t trust the government to spend my taxes wisely.”

So how does one resolve the paradox of the anti-tax young socialists? A facile explanation is that young people don’t know what they’re talking about. In particular, one might suspect they don’t understand that ‘free stuff’ always has to be paid for by someone.

However, there’s a less patronising explanation, which is that the disconnect between receiving services from the state and paying for them runs in precisely the opposite direction.

Once in work, young people are all too familiar with the concept of paying tax — because they can see the deductions on their payslips. What is less visible to them is what they get in return.

Compared to older people, the young are less likely to use the NHS and they are many decades away from receiving their pensions. Furthermore, unlike their parents’ generation at the same age, they’re more likely to be paying for higher education and less likely to be living on welfare.

They’re also seeing precious little action from the government to tackle priority concerns like the cost of housing.

Therefore, we need to ask what younger voters really want: actual socialism or just a better deal?

Join the discussion

  • This post seems to miss the obvious – if they are answering that taxes ought to be lower “in general” and also wanting socialism, that would imply they want much higher taxes on the rich, which is perfectly compatible with saying that taxes ought to be low “in general”. On spending cuts, the answer could easily imply that they want spending cut on things that this voting block might not consider essential services, like maintaining a nuclear deterrent. (I have no polling data to back that example up, but the point is that “spending cuts” does not necessarily entail “spending cuts on things that modern socialists typically desire high state spending on”)
    These opinions may not be particularly wise, so maybe I am being patronising and facile for suggesting it, but the positions are logically consistent up to a point and isn’t quite as simple as “they don’t understand that ‘free stuff’ always has to be paid for by someone.”

  • I always remember the simple, and best, definition:
    The means of Production = Land Labour Capital.
    1) Communism = State Ownership of the Means of Production.
    2) Socialism = State Control of the Means of Production
    3) Capitalism = Private Ownership of the Means of Production.

    As the Labour is You, it is the big one. Land is something most of us aspire to eventually own, as is Capital.

    And by the way, Fas* ism is Corporate AND Government Joint Partnership in the Control/Ownership of the Means of Production. (Italy, Germany, Japan, 1930s)

  • “Youthful naivete” extends into their 40s these days, due to extended time in education, gap year travel (of distant memory) , deferment of children, housing unaffordability etc.
    “Tax the rich” actually provides most tax in most countries already. The rest of us are taxed so that at least we have a stake in deciding what tax rates should be.

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